Valley of Shadows by Paul Buchanan

My very grateful thanks to Lucy at Legend Press for inviting me to take part in the blog tour for Valley of Shadows by Paul Buchanan and for sending me a copy of the book in return for an honest review. It gives me real pleasure to share that review today.

Published by Legend Press on 15th July, Valley of Shadows is available for purchase here.

Valley of Shadows

The second novel in the PI Jim Keegan series.

A reclusive millionaire hires PI Jim Keegan to look after her interests, she is currently hidden away at the legendary Chateau Marmont hotel. All Keegan has to do is humour her, keep her important papers in his office safe, and make weekly checks of her LA properties. but within a week she goes missing. Keegan suspects her ne’er-do-well young nephew of murder―but all the evidence he can find is circumstantial, and there’s a good chance the kid will get away scot free.

My Review of Valley of Shadows

Private Investigator Jim Keegan has a new case.

I thoroughly enjoyed Valley of Shadows. Paul Buchanan has written a crime thriller that has all the best nuances and qualities of modern detective noir fiction but plotted without the luxury and ease of mobile phones and the Internet in his time frame so that old fashioned qualities ripple through the story. Valley of Shadows is an excellent blend of the golden era of crime fiction and sharp modern plotting that reminded me of Poirot, Sam Spade and Columbo all in the one character of Jim Keegan.

I thought Jim Keegan was such a well wrought character. He is flawed, frustrating (ask Mrs Dodd), often misguided and foolish as well as insightful and intellectually attractive so that he feels three dimensional and vivid, without the hard boiled maverick personalities so often stereotypically attributed to middle aged men in this genre. Reading Valley of Shadows as a stand alone book works brilliantly as references to Jim’s past are effortlessly included so that the reader understands him completely, but it has certainly made me want to go back and discover him from the beginning in City of Fallen Angels. I found Mrs Dodd almost Shakespearean as a humorous foil to Jim. She provides a pragmatic balance with just a touch of quirkiness embodied in her superstitions that I found really appealing.

Speaking of superstitions, there’s an undercurrent of supernatural other-worldliness in Valley of Shadows that adds both interest and a frisson of fear for the reader. Not everything is explained and Nora’s behaviour leaves the reader wondering what the truth really is, making for an intriguing read with a sprinkling of moments when the hairs on the back of your neck raise from the creepiness.

The plot in Valley of Shadows is a corker. Quite a slow burner, but hugely compelling, it’s brilliantly designed to engage the reader completely. There’s enough of Jim’s personal life subplot to break the tension as needed without affecting the drama of the narrative. I had it all worked out really early on – as soon as Ida Fletcher’s nephew Danny Church arrived in the story – except of course, I was completely wrong. Paul Buchanan wrongfooted me in Valley of Shadows and I found the denouement hugely satisfying.

Valley of Shadows may not have the visceral violence we often expect in crime fiction; it may not be a writhing twisty psychological roller coaster, but it is a sophisticated, wonderfully crafted story that builds throughout and which I thought was excellent. I fear it might be a quiet book that many miss which would be a real injustice. I really recommend it.

About Paul Buchanan

Paul Buchanan earned a Master of Professional Writing degree from the University of Southern California and an MFA in fiction writing from Chapman University. He teaches and writes in the Los Angeles area.

You’ll find Paul Buchanan on Twitter @ProfBuch and Instagram.

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